Restive Workforce Less Satisfied But Not Yet Ready Change Jobs

August 18, 2006
Employees in the corporate world aren’t exactly happy campers these days, with a newly released national survey showing lower job satisfaction compared with a year ago. This year, employers are being looked upon to provide their staffs with better pay and health insurance, as well as flexible work hours.

    But if such conditions don’t change, the underlying workforce frustration could leave more openings for job recruiters, says Genia Spencer, spokesman for the annual Atlanta-based national survey, Randstad’s 2006 Employee Review.

    "When a recruiter calls a candidate, the first question they’ll ask is ‘What matters most to you?’ " Spencer says. "Employers, knowing their employees could leave, need to recruit their employees every day."

    Helen Scully, who operates Roseville, California-based consulting firm Scully Career Associates, agrees. She’s found that managers often don’t follow through with career development options for staffers because they don’t get paid to do so, and are more focused on meeting their own goals as managers.

    But that can breed dismay among workers, she says.

    "It comes down to going to work every day and how you get treated," Scully says. "It’s important whether you feel valued and/or loyal to the company." If not, she says, all it takes is one especially bad day, or unwarranted poor treatment from a boss, for the employee to quickly decide to move on.

    "People generally quit their boss and not their company," notes Scully, citing a mantra of the job consulting industry.

    In February and March, Randstad surveyed 1,264 employers and 1,642 employees. Employers were categorized as "matures," born from 1900-1945; baby boomers, 1946-64; Gen Xers, 1965-79; and Gen Y, 1980-87.

    It found that about three-fourths of surveyed employers said they advocate career development for their employees. But half the employees surveyed said companies are falling short of providing employee development initiatives such as pay increases, new-skills instruction and assignment of added responsibilities.

    Randstad also found that while 86 percent of surveyed employees said they need to feel valued by their employer to stay happy, only 37 percent indicated they get such on-the-job feedback.

    Such conditions point to a stressed workforce, Randstad’s Spencer says. Employees in recent years, she says, have helped companies realize higher profits without getting more pay, training or responsibilities. The inconsistencies in views between employers and their staffs, she adds, breed less loyalty, lower morale and higher stress and can trigger thoughts about changing jobs, especially in markets where job options are plentiful.

    Still, the survey found that 81 percent of employees and 69 percent of employers said people stay in jobs--even if they don’t like them--just to have a job. And a majority of employees surveyed even said they’d take on more stress for higher pay.

    But the survey also shows that there are plenty of employees who don’t plan to stay unhappy in their jobs. They’re ready to move on.

    While about two-thirds of respondents said they didn’t plan to change jobs this year, even though career change options exist, career consultant Scully notes that the remaining one-third of the respondents gave no indication they’d stay at their jobs this year.

    "That’s a lot of people," Scully says.

    What to do? Both Spencer and Scully agree that companies wanting to increase their chances of retaining employees need to focus more on the needs of their rank-and-file staffs, not just the high and low performers, as is typical. Increasing communications with these staffs on their career needs is seen as a necessary first step.

    Scully says companies should pay managers to provide career development options for employees. One low-cost remedy, she says, is the establishment of a company Web site for employees to find coaching and other career development programs designed to help them broaden their skills.